Stu: If you ever wondered about the health benefits of the humble avocado then have a read of this super-comprehensive overview of our favourite fruit… or is it a vegetable 🙂
The average avocado is nutrient dense, delicious, and will clock in at about 140 calories. With this comes 14 grams of fat – roughly 70 percent of the calorie content. In these calories are an incredible balance of nearly twenty vitamins and minerals. Infused alongside these nutrients are many antioxidants – and the fat content of avocado is monounsaturated, meaning that it helps your body balance its intake of other fats.
Avocados can help your body with a wide range of ailments. Aside from being able to clear up vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can cause a host of problems on their own, avocados can help prevent aging from oxidation (helping you live longer and be more active), improve immune function, manage your blood fat content, eliminate cholesterol, improve digestion, and more.
Avocados have been the subject of intense study and research. Their speculated benefits have helped people for centuries. Science has recently been able to find truth to the legacy behind the avocado’s medical usage in history. Mexico, Chile, and other Central and South American cultures have used the fruit in medicinal preparations and health remedies for many years.
1. Avocado is a very good source of lots of vitamins
Avocado is an excellent source of quite a few key nutrients that are important for your body’s function. Some of the nutrients in avocado, like vitamin K and copper, can be quite tricky to obtain since they are uncommon. Here’s a list of the vitamins and minerals in avocados, and a quick summary of why they’re good for you.
Pantothenic acid, 42% of your D.R.I. (Daily recommended intake)Pantothenic acid is most commonly studied for its ability to create energy in the body. It’s metabolized into Coenzyme A, a powerful antioxidant that’s sometimes considered one of the most vital chemicals in the entire world for supporting life. Avocado is the second highest source of pantothenic acid in the world, second only to shiitake mushrooms.
Folate, 40% of your D.R.IFolate has proved to be a hard vitamin to study. Folate actually describes a whole bunch of different types of folates – methylfolates, dihydrofolates, etc. The different varieties cover a number of different aspects of health, primarily that relating to the brain and nervous system.
Vitamin K , 35% of your D.R.I.Vitamin K is an important mineral in regulating your blood’s ability to clot. Blood clotting is important for closing wounds properly – if your blood can’t clot, the wound will remain open and you’ll bleed out. Vitamin K also helps bones grow strong.
Copper , 31% of your D.R.I.Copper helps the body form one of its natural endogenous antioxidants, superoxide dismutase (SOD.) Copper deficiency – and the subsequent SOD deficiency – can lead to terrible damages to the nervous system, the development of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms. Fortunately, copper deficiency is rare.
Vitamin B6, 23% of your D.R.I.Vitamin B6 is a nutrient that helps your body produce red blood cells, and aids in the proper metabolization of carbohydrates and sugars.
Vitamin E, 21% of your D.R.I.
Avocado is the fifth highest source of vitamin E in the world, beaten by several nuts & seeds and leafy greens. Vitamin E is a very strong antioxidant that helps keep the skin healthy and fight against heart disease.
Potassium, 21% of your D.R.I.Avocado makes the top-10 list again for sources high in potassium, coming in at number 8. Potassium helps the body maintain a proper blood pressure, assists the kidneys with proper functioning, and helps build strong bones.
Vitamin C, 20% of your D.R.I.Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant and one of the most important nutrients the body can use. It helps the absorption of all other nutrients. Have you heard of scurvy? That’s another name for vitamin C deficiency, which can cause lots of unpleasant symptoms like bleeding gums and fatigue.
These nutrients are responsible for a much larger heap of health benefits than those mentioned above. Read on to see how they can work with each other to create positive changes in the body.
Conclusion: Avocado boasts a strong and varied nutritional profile.The high content of various minerals and vitamins allows avocados to be effective fighters against a large number of diseases.
2. Avocados beat bananas in terms of potassium content
This means that they provide a better benefit than the most commonly cited fruit for those deficient in potassium.
A serving of avocado will provide 21% of your D.R.I. for potassium, whereas bananas only provide 15%.
This means that avocados are more effective at helping the body manage its electrical gradients in its cells for effective transportation of sodium. A diet with sufficient potassium also help reduce blood pressure, which is notorious for causing diseases of the heart and kidney.
Conclusion: Bananas, move over – avocados are higher in potassium than their bright-coloured rivals. High potassium foods fight blood sugar spikes and diabetes, while also helping the body transport nutrients more effectively.
3. Avocado helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels
Avocados contain a particular phytonutrient known as beta-sitosterol.
Beta-sitosterol is a plant-based nutrient that functions in a similar way to HDL cholesterol – the good kind. HDL (high density lipoprotein) is what our body uses to scrape away excess LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is highly oxidative and can lead to disease and clogged arteries.
Since beta-sitosterol functions like HDL cholesterol, it can prevent the buildup of LDL cholesterol and even prevent its entry into the blood system. Beta-sitosterol is also known to help prevent prostate swelling by reducing inflammation in the area.
Conclusion: Avocados contain a unique plant based nutrient that is functionally similar to cholesterol – the good kind. It helps prevent buildup of LDL – the bad kind – of cholesterol, thus preventing related diseases.
4. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fatty acids
Being a high fat food doesn’t mean that avocados are bad for you – even with 77% of the caloric count of the fruit being from fat. It’s one of the highest rated natural foods in terms of fat content! Fortunately some fats, like the monounsaturated fats in avocado, are good for you.
There are several MFAs, all of which are good for you. A measure of the length of a fatty acid chain can determine how healthy they are. The longer the chain in a fatty acid, the higher its melting point is. The higher its melting point, the more likely it is to be solid at room temperature, and the more solid a fat is, the more difficult it is for the body to digest.
The fatty acids found in plants tend to be omegas with fairly short chains. Avocados contain
Alpha-linoleic acid – roughly 253 milligrams per cupAlpha-linoleic acid helps the function of the heart and joints, as well as bolsters the nervous system. Avocados are quite light in their ALA content, however.
Linoleic acid – 3,886 milligrams per cup.The avocado contains very generous amounts of linoleic acid. This essential fat allows many of the body’s functions to operate. Too much, however, can be a detriment to the body. Sourcing this fat from avocados is much healthier than getting it from cheese or other sources.
Oleic acid has been linked to improved memory and cognitive function, and improved cholesterol management. It’s also shown to fight against cancer as a hereditary illness.
These particular fats have a good resistance to heat-related oxidation. This makes them a good choice for cooking with, suggesting that avocado oil is a much safer alternative than canola or olive oil.
Conclusion: Avocados are high in fat. However, they are high in three particular fatty acids that each exert a particular set of benefits on the human body. Regular consumption of these fats is necessary for a healthy, functioning body.
5. Avocados help your eyesight
Avocados are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These two particular plant-based chemicals are found in high density in the tissues of human eyes. A well-functioning eye will be high in the two phytochemicals, as they provide antioxidant benefits. They minimize oxidative damage from U.V. rays, protecting the eyes from sun damage. They can also prevent a type of irreversible eye damage known as macular degeneration.
The avocado is also high in monounsaturated fat, as we discussed earlier. These help the body absorb nutrients and antioxidants that are fat soluble, such as beta-carotene. Beta carotene is the nutrient found in carrots that gives them their reputation for helping the eyes function better.
Conclusion: Avocados contain several plant-based nutrients that directly assist the tissues in the eyes. Avocados also contain healthy fats, which aid in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene which also bolsters the function of the eyeball.
6. Avocados can prevent osteoporosis
A serving of avocado provides up to 35% of your D.R.I. of vitamin K. Vitamin K is not commonly discussed and often missed entirely, since its function is similar to that of calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients are well-known for their ability to improve bone health, but vitamin K gets much less respect than it deserves.
Not only dos vitamin K directly impact the development of healthy bones, it also helps the body effectively absorb calcium. Furthermore, it prevents unnecessary excretion of usable calcium.
All of these combined abilities make vitamin K a key component in preventing bone and joint-related illnesses, particularly osteoporosis. Vitamin K was shown in particular to combat osteoporosis by reducing the risk of fractures caused by the disease.
Conclusion: Avocados work to fight against osteoporosis by allowing the body to develop healthy bones and joints. In those who still develop the disease, vitamin K from avocados will reduce the risk of fractures caused by osteoporosis.
7. Avocados have a great fibre content
Fibre is a very important nutrient that helps the body with a number of processes. Avocados contain enough fibre for them to be considered a significant source of both types: insoluble and soluble fibre. Both are indigestible, but insoluble fibre is not able to dissolve in water and is sometimes known as ‘roughage.’ Soluble fibre will absorb water, creating a gel-like substance that the body can absorb.
Fiber can help the body in the following ways:
Insoluble fiber helps the body excrete bile. Bile is produced in response to the consumption of fat, and is excreted in the intestines. Insoluble fiber traveling through the intestines will attract bile, which sticks to it, ultimately leaving the body through stool.
If bile isn’t properly excreted, the body will absorb it back into the bloodstream and recycle it through the liver. Since bile is used to dispose of toxins, when it returns to the liver and is re-used, it will continue to absorb more toxins, becoming more and more toxic and doing more damage with each cycle.
Insoluble fiber also prevents constipation and related issues, by keeping you ‘regular.’
Soluble fiber helps soften stool, also preventing constipation.
Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and sugars, which can hinder them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This regulates blood sugar and can contribute to the avocado’s ability to fight heart disease.
Soluble fiber increases the proliferation of our body’s natural gut flora, which helps the immune system fight off bad bacteria, reduces inflammation, and can even improve our mood.
Soluble fiber expands in the stomach, but is not digested. This makes it ideal for those hoping to lose weight, since it offers no calories, but will make you feel physically full.
Conclusion: Fibre is a very useful nutrient that helps the body with a number of critical functions. Fibre is found in fruits and vegetables, and avocados are a particularly good source of this nutrient. Learn more about fibre here.
8. Avocados can fight against cancer
Studies have linked avocados to an easier battle with cancer. One indication is that avocados can reduce the brutal side effects of chemotherapy – the current most common treatment for all sorts of cancers. Avocado consumption has also been linked with a declining growth of cancer in the prostate.
Some cancers are caused by carcinogens known as mutagens, which cause a mutation of the cell’s DNA. Usually, when a cell dies, its DNA dies with it – but in cancerous cells, the DNA remains mutated and can continue to spread to nearby cells. This allows for the rapid spread of cancer.
Avocados contain folate, which has shown good promise in studies that pitted it against various types of cancers. It is speculated that folate fights against cancer at the root level, by protecting DNA from mutations.
Conclusion: Avocados are shown to decrease cancerous tumours, and prevent cancer arising from DNA mutations. The latter is likely caused by folate, one of the many nutrients present in avocados.
9. Avocados can reduce depression
Homocysteine is a substance that can inhibit blood circulation. Homocysteine is produced in the body from methionine, and an excess of it can cause problems. Excessive homocysteine atherogenesis (the hardening of arteries) and inflamed blood vessels, which can prevent the circulation of nutrients to the brain.
The brain needs nutrients to properly produce neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation. Homocysteine can particularly inhibit serotonin and dopamine, which are largely responsible for mood and motivation in healthy people.
Folate is shown to decrease symptoms of depression by preventing the buildup of homocysteine. It will also lessen the likelihood of developing other conditions caused by an excess of the substance.
Conclusion: if you suspect that your depression is caused by an excessive amount of homocysteine, consider adding avocados to your diet. The folate content of avocados is effective at preventing buildups of homocysteine, and can effectively halt related depression.
10. Avocados improve digestion and detoxification
Avocados improve the body’s ability to digest nutrients and remove toxins in several ways.
The high amount of fiber in avocados allows toxins to be more easily excreted. The fiber also ensures regular bowel movements, which further promotes a regular cycle of nutrient intake and outtake.
Vitamin C helps the body produce collagen which, among other things, strengthens the digestive tract. Collagen is a protein that forms to add strength to tissues, and it likes to do so in the intestinal walls. Collagen lowers the risk of intestinal cancers and other G.II. issues.
Conclusion: Antioxidants help your digestive system function, by providing the body with the means to make collagen. This, in turn, allows a strong digestive system to flush toxins out of the body easier.
11. Avocados have a synergistic mixture of antioxidants
Different antioxidants do different things, and avocados are chock full of many different types. Antioxidants often do more than simply prevent oxidation, and oftentimes they work together to create incredible benefits. Avocados contain
Polyphenols are a class of plant-based antioxidants that fight disease. Polyphenols are also prebiotics, meaning they increase the frequency of healthy bacteria in your gut to bolster immune reaction and digestion. A lot of polyphenols are only fat soluble, which can make them difficult to digest when consumed as a part of other foods. When eaten with avocados, though, they absorb just fine.
Flavonoids are a subgroup of polyphenols. Cryptoxanthin, lutein, alpha-carotene, and zeaxanthin are a few flavonoids present in the flesh of the avocado. These particular antioxidants search the body for free radicals and actively disarm them before they can do damage.
Tannin is a polyphenol contained in high amounts in avocado. Tannin fights inflammation, ulcers, and free radicals.
Vitamins C and E are considered antioxidants on their own, and fight free radicals along with the other benefits described earlier.
Linoleic acid, one of the essential fatty acids in avocado, has shown to be an effective antioxidant both internally and externally. It can be applied dermally as a lotion, or eaten, for good benefit.
Conclusion: Avocado has an impressive arrangement of antioxidants. They work together to demonstrate even more health benefits than the vitamins and nutrients already available in an avocado. Moreso, avocado’s fat content helps the body digest polyphenols, which are typically hard to absorb.
12. Avocados can help your skin stay young and healthy
Avocados are known to be very helpful in keeping the skin avoid the effects of ageing. Ageing skin is largely caused by oxidative stress, which results in things like wrinkles, skin blotches, liver spots, uneven pigment, and sagging skin. There are a few nutrients in avocados that hinder the ageing process.
Avocados contain vitamin E, which is a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants fight and prevent oxidation, which is responsible for most of the effects that everyone will eventually see in their skin as they grow older. It also prevents the development of degenerative skin disease.
Folate, also present in the flesh of the avocado, hinders the development of dermal cancer. It does this by preventing the accumulation of damage from UV rays, which are known to drain folate from the skin. Restoring the balance of folate will help avoid the chance of getting skin cancer.
Vitamin C is another tool that fights against free radicals. Vitamin C also promotes the growth of collagen, the protein responsible for maintenance and development of strong body tissues.
Linoleic acid, a major component of the fat content in an avocado, helps the skin look bright and fresh by preventing oxidative damage.
Conclusion: Avocados contain a number of nutrients that have all been proven to be effective at skin care. They do this by preventing oxidative damage, or by producing collagen, a protein responsible for strengthening skin.
13. Avocados are helpful for people trying to lose weight
Avocados are a perfect health food for people wanting to lose weight. They’re high in fat, but the benefits they provide for weight loss are much more significant than the impact of their fat content.
One study split subjects into two groups. The first group ate a meal with an avocado, the other group ate a meal nearly identical – minus the avocado. The group were then quizzed on their feelings. The avocado group felt significantly more satisfied with their meal – up to 23% more. They were 28% less likely to consume another meal in the next few hours.
The fibre content in avocados allows people to feel full quickly, by swelling in the stomach. Fibre adds very few calories, so meals high in fibre will often result in a decreased overall calorie consumption.
The healthy fats in avocados clear the bloodstream of cholesterol, allowing for better circulation. This allows nutrients to flow and absorb better, improving the metabolism. A faster metabolism burns calories quicker.
Avocados also bolster the digestive system, allowing the body to excrete wastes quicker, digest sugar and fat slower, and get much more value from the nutrients taken in.
Conclusion: Avocados are great foods for people on a weight loss diet. Even though they’re high in fat, they help the body burn calories quicker and make people feel full faster, ultimately leading to a higher rate of calories being burned, and less calories being consumed.
14. Avocado helps bolster the gut’s intestinal flora
The intestine is home to a large number of bacteria. Unlike bacteria that causes infection, though, the intestinal flora is beneficial. These bacteria – along with fungi and viruses, some 100 trillion of them – are necessary for mental and physical health.These microorganisms are considered to be one of the most complex systems operating in the body, and the count of these microbes is ten times higher than that of your body’s total cells.
A number of things can increase your microbiota – fermented food like yogurt or kombucha, probiotics, and consumption of polyphenols. These plant-based nutrients are now shown to reliably impact your gut’s bacteria in a positive way.
Polyphenols allow the gut bacteria to flourish by providing them with more nutrition. Polyphenols eliminate bad bacteria, which thrive off the same food that the healthy bacteria consumes.
Eating avocado can boost the function of these bacteria, due to the high number of polyphenols available in the flesh of the avocado, and the high absorption rate made possible by avocado’s fat content. Proper function of intestinal biota helps fight against cancer, diabetes, and other physical diseases including obesity. They can also prevent degenerative neurological diseases, depression and anxiety, and fight allergies.
Conclusion: Your intestines contain a vast, thriving ecosystem of microbes. These microbes are responsible for digestion and an imbalance can result in a huge number of disorders and diseases. Avocado contains enough polyphenols to ensure a healthy amount of these bacteria.
How to Include Avocado in Your Diet Plan
Now that you’ve learned all about avocado’s incredible nutritional profile and its ability to fight disease, you’re surely wondering how to implement the fruit into your diet.
Eating a diet of nothing but avocado won’t do you any good. These benefits will become apparent if you add the fruit into your diet, but it’s important to regularly consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy things. A vegetarian diet high in superfoods is proven to lower the risk of almost every type of disease, but you must be careful. Too much or too little of anything will result in further complications, so read on for our advice on fruits and vegetables you can include with avocado in your diet.
Fortunately, avocado has an incredible flavour – it’s deep, rich, earthy and nutty. It’s not hard to find something that avocado mixes well with. If you can’t wait to get started, but don’t have the patience to cook a full recipe, here are a quick avocado based snack ideas to tide you over until you can make something bigger.
- Guacamole! A simple guacamole can be made from just crushed avocados, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- Add avocado to your favourite smoothie recipes
- Add avocado slices to a bowl of greens and drizzle with balsamic vinegar for a quick, nutritious salad.
- Avocado slices make a nice addition to vegetable or roast beef sandwiches.
- Avocados, skewered on toothpicks, go nicely with any vegetable platters.
- Avocados can also be eaten as-is. This is popular in Central America, where the fruit originates from. Salt or pepper adds to the flavour.
- Avocados can be used to replace fats in baking and cooking, but the consistency is quite different from that of butter or margarine. Be careful with your ratios.
- Avoid taking avocados with blood-thinning medication. Foods high in vitamin K can interact dangerously with these types of medications.
Selecting and Storing Avocados for Maximum Nutritional Benefit
Make sure you buy your avocados slightly ripe. Buying hard avocados means you’ll spend a long time waiting for them to ripen, and sometimes they simply won’t. Don’t buy them too soft, though, or they’ll likely be mushy and over-ripe.
Keep them stored in a cool, dark place. They can be refrigerated, but if you’re hoping for them to continue ripening, you should leave them out and wrap them in paper towel. Leaving them with a ripe banana or other fruit will speed up the process.
Simple Guacamole Recipe
Guacamole is all some people know avocados for. While guacamole is amazing, and a pretty good example of what an avocado can do, it’s certainly not the only thing they can do. Regardless, guacamole is a creamy, healthy, flavour-filled delicacy that everyone should know how to make. Guacamole recipes are highly personalised, so feel free to touch up this basic recipe to your taste.
- Two avocados, quite ripened
- A line
- Two cloves of garlic
- A teaspoon of salt
- A small tomato
- A third of a red onion
- A quarter cup of coriander
- Squeeze the flesh of your avocado into a bowl. Add the juice from your lime, mince your garlic and add that, then add the salt. With a fork, mash the ingredients together until it reaches a nice creamy consistency.
- Dice your tomato and onions, finely chop your coriander, then add them all to the bowl and mix until everything is distributed evenly.
- Serve with chips, vegetables, sandwiches, or whatever you like.
2. Mango, Avocado Salsa
If you need a perfect caricature of Central American flavour, look no further. This dish captures the essence of the culinary culture perfectly. The sweetness of the mango adds its own rich flavour to the avocado’s rich earthiness, and the coriander and jalapenos adds a bite that livens things up. This salsa doesn’t take long to prepare.
- A mango
- An avocado
- Four tomatoes
- A jalapeno
- Half a cup of coriander
- Three garlic cloves
- A teaspoon of salt
- Two tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- A quarter cup of red onion
- Three tablespoons of olive oil
- First, get your ingredients ready. Prep everything except the avocado, because it likes to brown quickly. Peel & dice your mango, your avocado, dice the tomatoes, mince your jalapeno and garlic. Finely chop your coriander and red onion.
- Mix everything together into a bowl and toss it. The juices should coat all the ingredients nicely. Chill, and serve cold.
3. Poached Huevos Rancheros
Anyone who hasn’t tried huevos rancheros should definitely give this recipe a shot. It’s made to be extremely healthy, so try to use organic ingredients where possible. If you do, this recipe offers 66% of your D.R.I. of fibre, 44% of your vitamin A, and 36% of your daily protein! Not bad for a meal that only takes 25 minutes to prepare.
- An onion
- Four cloves of garlic
- A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- Four cups of water
- Three + one tablespoons of broth – chicken or veggie
- Four cups of black beans (or two 15 ounce cans)
- Two teaspoons of cumin
- One and a half tablespoons of red chili
- Two tablespoons of coriander
- Four eggs
- Salsa (can be pre-made, or use the recipe above)
- 2 cups of romaine, shredded
- A large avocado
- Salt and pepper
- Prep your ingredients first, if you desire, or do so along the way. Mince your onion, chop your garlic, wash & drain your beans. Finely chop your coriander so that you have enough to fill two tablespoons once it’s chopped. Shred your romaine lettuce.
- Chop the onion and garlic first, and let them sit while you cut the other ingredients to draw out some of their health benefits. Meanwhile, bring the water and vinegar to a gentle boil in a shallow skillet – deep enough to have the water cover your eggs.
- In a separate pan, heat up a tablespoon of your broth. Saute your onion in the broth, over medium. Three minutes or so, stirring often, should be enough for them to become translucent. Add the garlic, beans, chili powder, cumin, and the rest of your broth. Keep this warming, for about ten minutes. Stir somewhat frequently. After ten minutes, add the coriander, salt and pepper.
- Poach your eggs. To poach an egg, crack them open over the boiling water. Don’t touch them right away until the outsides have cooked enough for them not to break apart. It will take about five minutes for them to cook lightly. They can be removed gently with a slotted spoon.
- Put your poached eggs with your beans, and serve them with salsa, your lettuce, and diced avocado. You can serve with a lightly grilled tortilla if you like.
4. Chocolate Avocado Mousse
This recipe blends the rich nutty flavour of avocado, with the satisfying smooth taste of chocolate mousse. It’s a quick preparation that makes enough for ten servings, and surprisingly manages to retain a high nutritional profile by using minimal processed sugars.
- Half a cup of soaked dates
- Half a cup of maple syrup
- A teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2-3 avocados (enough to fill just over a cup)
- Three quarters of a cup of cocoa powder
- Half a cup of water
- First, blend your dates with the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mash your avocado, then add to the blended dates with the cocoa powder. Blend until the mixture becomes creamy, ensuring you scrape anything that catches on the side of the blender back into the mixture.
- Add your water and continue blending, making sure the mixture stays smooth. This can be served at room temperature or cold, and can be kept in the fridge for up to three days. It can be frozen for a couple weeks.
- If you want to make mousse fudgesicles, freeze the mousse in ice cube trays with toothpicks or halved popsicle sticks.
- To turn the recipe into a sauce, add an extra cup of water.
Avocado is an incredibly versatile food, both in terms of nutrition, and culinary application. It can be used in desserts, snacks, main entrees, salads, and even eaten by itself. For a food that’s so dense with nutritional benefit, it’s good to see that it can be included in everyones flavour palate.
Everyone hoping to improve their diet should make sure they include avocado in their kitchen. Though they may be a bit expensive, the potential benefit is well-worth any financial cost.
This article is brought to you by Jen Miller. If you would like to learn more about her, you may check her out here.